JAKARTA, Indonesia – When Neil Bantleman, a Canadian citizen, first accepted a job offer as a teacher at Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) in 2010, little did he know that 6 years later, he would be celebrating his 47th birthday in the confines of a jail in Indonesia.
On June 3, his brother Guy Bantleman posted a message on Neil’s behalf on Facebook. In his message, Neil thanked his supporters globally for their continued support on a long journey that began April 2014, when Neil was arrested on charges of child rape.
Neil has maintained his innocence.
“Well this was certainly a birthday to remember and not for reasons that you may think. While the circumstances that we currently find ourselves in, may not be ideal, I cannot help but feel truly blessed and fortunate,” wrote Neil.
“Each and every message continues to strengthen our resolve in our fight for justice and truth for all.”
His message bore a stream of optimism and hope – despite the fact that court decisions have not been in favor of Neil so far.
The case against Neil and Ferdinand Tijong, Neil’s Indonesian teaching assistant, is heavily criticized by the international community. The British and Canadian governments released statements expressing concern over the lack of evidence and mishandling of the case, sentiments shared by human rights groups.
The scandal began in 2014 with claims that 5 cleaners allegedly raped a child in the school, but the allegations later expanded to include Neil and Tijong who were later taken into custody.
Last year, the two saw a ray of hope when the South Jakarta district court rejected the civil case of a $125-million sex abuse lawsuit filed by the victim’s mother, deciding it “could not accept it due to technicalities.”
Neil and Tijong were acquitted, only for the Supreme Court in Jakarta tooverturn the acquittals earlier this year. Neil and Tijong were sentenced for 11 years each, one year more than their original sentence of 10 years..
Below is Neil’s full birthday message as posted by his brother on Facebook:
The following is a message I am posting on behalf of my brother.
Well this was certainly a birthday to remember and not for reasons that you may think. While the circumstances that we currently find ourselves in, may not be ideal, I cannot help but feel truly blessed and fortunate. These feelings have come to me through the multitude of wishes, prayers and reassurances by the commitment of family, friends and strangers alike to continue to stand by us. I could ask for nothing more…well maybe one thing more.
I am still reading birthday messages which means either I am a slow reader or there are a lot of messages! Each and every message continues to strengthen our resolve in our fight for justice and truth for all. So thank you everyone for taking the time to send a message or simply having us in your daily thoughts and prayers, it is truly humbling and inspiring to be held by so many.
I feel fortunate to be able to share my birthday with so many people around the world in the spirit of goodness and truth.
With much love